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In-form Nadal seeking third straight title as Murray defends Madrid crown

  • ontennis
  • 29 April 2016
  • 11:04

Andy Murray returns to defend his ATP Madrid Open trophy, but all eyes will be on world number one Novak Djokovic and clay-court expert Rafael Nadal.

As the world's best gear up for next month's French Open, defending champion Murray is seeking back-to-back titles in Madrid.

The trip to the Spanish capital offers Djokovic the opportunity to rebound from his stunning second-round exit at the Monte Carlo Masters - his debut on clay this season.

Nadal, the four-time champion, will look to maintain his impeccable form after triumphing in Monte Carlo and Barcelona as Roger Federer steps up his comeback from a knee injury.

IN-FORM NADAL SEEKING THREE IN A ROW

Clay master Nadal is enjoying the comforts of his favourite surface, which has yielded back-to-back titles. Having struggled for most of the season, sparking debate as to whether his best tennis is well and truly behind him, Nadal reminded people he is far from finished after reigning supreme at the Barcelona Open and Monte Carlo Masters. The 29-year-old's return to form comes at the perfect time, ahead of the French Open.

MURRAY STUNS NADAL

Murray claimed a well-deserved victory over Nadal in last year's final to clinch his first ever win against the Spaniard on clay. The Scot was dominant throughout, posting a 6-3 6-2 success and a 10th ATP 1000 triumph as he ended Nadal's bid for three consecutive titles in Madrid.

ALL EYES ON DJOKOVIC AND FEDERER

How will Djokovic perform on clay? That is the biggest question. The French Open is the only grand slam missing from the Serb's collection and early indications are he will struggle yet again. In his first tournament on the clay-court swing, Djokovic was a shock second-round casualty at the Monte Carlo Masters. It was not the title defence Djokovic had hoped for, having been outlasted by Czech Jiri Vesely in three sets - just his second defeat of the season.

Former world number one and three-time champion Federer is also in Madrid after adding the tournament to his schedule ahead of next month's major at Roland Garros. The French Open was initially to be Federer's only event on clay but the Swiss veteran - who lost in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters after making his comeback from a knee injury - will now seek a fourth title in the Spanish capital.

NADAL A WIN AWAY FROM HALF-CENTURY

The 14-time grand-slam champion's victory in Barcelona moved Nadal level with Guillermo Vilas on 49 clay-court titles. Nadal also has the most titles in Madrid - four - while he has contested three other finals.

As for Feliciano Lopez, he is the only player to have played the Madrid Masters in each of its 15 years.

MURRAY GUNNING FOR TOP RANKING

At a career-high ranking of number two in the world, two-time major winner Murray - though aware he has a long way to go - told the Madrid Masters official website: "It would be incredible to reach the top of my sport. It's something you dream about since you were a child. My brother just got himself up to number one in doubles, and it would be incredible to say we both reached the top position during our careers."

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